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Introduction After having finished school in 2011, I spent one year as an au pair in England. I travelled there in the beginning of August and stayed exactly 12 months. I lived in Cholsey, which is a small town near Oxford. My host family consisted of the two parents Dan and Sue and three children. When I arrived, Tabitha was 6 years old, Zachary 3 and Ottilie 1. Sue was a teacher and deputy head of her school, so she had to work a lot and often left home at 7 am and came back at 7 pm. Dan was often home earlier, because as an independent financial advisor, he could choose his hours himself. My daily routine was to help with breakfast and getting the children ready in the morning and do some household duties, whilst the children were at school. Then I had some free time until I picked the children up from school (and nursery), prepared supper for them, gave them a bath and put them to bed. In my time off I attended a language school in Oxford (two hours two to three days a week) or met other au pairs. Most of the week-ends I took trips to different cities like Cambridge, Bath or Henley. Language In terms of language that year abroad helped me a lot. I had started to watch some TV series in English before I went to England, but I understood far from everything. However, thereby I was used to only understanding the gist of an utterance, which helped me a lot during the first days. Dan and Sue had had several au pairs before me, which is why they were used to speaking slowly and clearly. It was easy to interact with them, as they often rephrased something if they had the impression I might not have understood. Patsy and Lightbrown refer to this phenomenon as “foreigner talk”, which is an “adjusted speech style” . According to them ... ... middle of paper ... ... different kinds of texts - Sue's magazines, newspapers on the train, and lots of books. My reading underwent a similar development as my listening skills. At first it was very tiring to read and there were many words that I did not understand. I do not like looking up words in a dictionary as that usually disturbs my reading, but in books I usually understood the story anyway. However, at the beginning I preferred German books and therefore read English only time and again. Only after Christmas did I start to enjoy reading English just as much and from then on I really read a lot and thereby expanded my vocabulary enormously. Lightbrown and Spada state that “substantial vocabulary growth through reading is possible” (Lightbrown/Spada p.162) and in my case that definitely applied. Through reading I learned vocabulary from fields that I was normally not exposed to.
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